Saving Heirloom Seeds

26 Sep

At our Harvest Party and Tomato Tasting last weekend we sampled dozens of different heirloom tomatoes from our plants and from those of some of my fellow Garden Club members. The variety of shapes, sizes, colors and flavors was dazzling!

Because heirloom tomatoes, unlike hybrids, can reproduce themselves it is fun and easy to save and plant the seeds of your favorites.To save seeds you can simply “squish” them into a paper napkin, write down the name of it right there, take it home to dry and then plant the seeds next spring. However, to improve seed viability and germination, I asked our guest Sue, who is the chairman of our Tomato Plant Committee and heirloom expert, about the best way to save seeds.

One of the tastiest and most interesting looking specimens I sampled was the Tlacolula Pink, an heirloom from Oaxaca, Mexico. Sue grew this variety a few years ago and passed seeds on to Elaine. Elaine’s didn’t do well their first year, but this year they volunteered in her garden and she got a great crop. So I decided I’d try growing the the third “generation” of them.

Per Sue’s instruction, the first step is to cut the tomato in half crosswise. Then push a finger into the cavities and pull out the gel and seeds in the center of the fruit.

Put the seeds and gel in a small dish and add a few ounces of water, and let sit for 2 or 3 days until a scummy layer forms on top.

The next step is to rinse the seeds  in a fine sieve to remove the gel and scum and place the seeds in a coffee filter to dry.

The coffee filter is practical because the seeds won’t stick to it.

When the seeds are fully dried place them in an envelope, label and store in a cool, dry place until you are ready to plant your seedlings.

I’m looking forward to eating these tomatoes next year. Their distinctive shape will be a nice addition to salads and they also look like a good candidate for marinara and tomato paste. Most off all, it makes me feel good to know that I am helping preserve a sustainable heirloom plant.


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